San Salvador Central Market

El Salvador Mercado

February 22, 2015

El Salvador Mercado

My stay here in El Salvador is accomplishing one of my purposes for this Journey of the Lotus: cultural immersion.

Here in this family there is an ice chest that is supplied with ice only once in a while. This means, of course, that the getting of fresh food is an almost daily expedition. It also seems to be that a fair number of people depend on the street vendors for cooking. I am certain that people come to know who they like to cook for them and they habituate their businesses offering a few quarters to have everything just done right. Interesting.

My personal style is to make my own food. I am joined here by the senior Mum, Orbelina, who makes meals for Papa Nefta every day. George often supplies himself by visiting his favorite vendor and because he is over at the border daily, he brings me what I ask for when he comes home for the evening: avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, papaya, melons, onions and other strange tropical fruits that I am being introduced to but have yet to learn the names of: all delicious.

Then when we are out with the van, we get to visit the mercado in Cara Sucia just about 2 miles up the road. It is a large market with a wide yard out front busy with milling people and with a dairy cart in front that has leche, milk, cream and a dry hard cheese that is a little like feta.

As we enter the covered area, I make my way with the herd of people down an aisle that is bordered by the permanent stalls with the other food vendors arranged out front. In back, there are places to buy dried, partly chopped corn and ground corn meal: masa. There are cashews and peanuts, there are black, red and kidney beans all to be found in 50 pound sacks which are like the bulk bins in our familiar chain grocery stores for people to choose a pound or more at a time.

Spilling into the aisle are the stations of the vegetable and fruit vendors, mariscos arranged head and tail over the ice buckets and also some already prepared food especially things like cookies, buns and other goodies. The whole place is alive with the spirit of the people here and with the amazing quality of what is presented.

It is quite obvious to me that all the vegetables to be found: onions, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, tropical fruits like papaya, coconuts, cabbages, various spinaches on their long stems, cilantro, melons, cucumbers and zucchini squashes, and other offerings that I have not seen before: all of this is locally grown within a few short miles brought daily here by very industrious folk.

Where you are the designation of organic is important. Here it is quite obvious to me that all of this array of totally wonderful wholesome vegetables and fruits are grown in traditional ways with compost and cultivation.

Don’t you know that all the fertilizers and pesticides are simply way too expensive for these poor people who know with their deeply indigenous wisdom that their way is better?  After all, these farmers have for generations been supporting themselves and their people by doing what they have always done to grow their crops.

I can buy 12 Roma type tomatoes for $1, 4 cucumbers and two onions for the same. A pint of milk is about 60 cents, and enough cheese for two salads is $2. A huge cabbage is $1, a bunch of 5 or 6 bananas also $1. Dove bar, vanilla chocolate covered:65 cents.

As we proceed forward the rear of the building continues to a courtyard in the back bordered by the familiar 10 ft. brick and cement walls wild forest on the far side. On either side of the aisle are even more vendors showing their fine vegetables and fruits.

About half way down to the end, an aisle goes to my right and here is to be found the ladies with their ropas: clothing, mostly very interesting tops and t-shirts, skinny jeans in very bright colors that sell for $15, scarves, skirts, dresses as well. Everything seems really inexpensive to me because I am used to a different economy but here, those $15. Jeans take a bit of doing to come up with the cash. Even so, most of the younger girls and some of the young mothers up to the age of about 30 are wearing a variety of skinny jeans and tights in woven patterns: all colors of the spectrum. The older ladies mostly wear dresses with fancy embroidered aprons tied in such a way to show off their round bellys. Here we are beyond belly fat: it is the style of the times.

The whole of the mercado is abuzz with the voices of the people greeting each other, choosing their supplies of vegetables and fruits, fishes, grains or dairy items. There is a great life here tenderly disguised as quite ordinary human people going about their Saturday morning market business, each smiling, laughing and obviously enjoying their time here.

The heart is warm, giving and including everyone and everything. What a way to live! If I were not so purpose driven in my life to make my way, there is a great deal to be said about this sweetness of spirit alive and quite well indeed right here. Somehow I believe this will be to found in Ecuador, my eventual destination.

Love and blessings, my friends. Take a look around you and give something back, give a kind word, give a tender glance and a smile. Imagine for yourself the spiritual blessings given and received in these simple gestures and feelings. Bon appétit!